August 3, 2020
The regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen, held via Zoom, was called to order by First Selectman B. Scott Kuhnly at 7 p.m.
Present: B. Scott Kuhnly, Glenn Ballard, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian, John D. Ward, Town Manager. Also present: John Preete from Agbotic
William Glueck, 18 Barkhamsted Road, thanked John Preete for bringing the Agbotic proposal and opportunity to the town and his willingness to work with the board. It was the first time residents and board members have seen the proposal. He felt it is important to look at the financials, such as the property tax impact, the increases in taxes, the offset in energy credits and any other financial aspects of the deal three, five, ten years out and compare it similarly to what we’re presently doing with the land three, five, ten years out. Once the community is informed, it would be important to have a community discussion to see if we should move forward or not.
Anna Sogliuzzo, 15 Old Orchard Road, is happy to see so many people on the call and glad the project is getting the attention it deserves. She believes there should be a public vote on the project after a public hearing.
On A Motion by Mark Neumann, seconded by Sally King, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of July 20, as written.
Unfinished or Tabled Business
Consideration of interest in town-owned land at 107 East Street
Town Manager John Ward reviewed the process regarding the sale of town-owned land. Per the Town Charter, once a sale receives an affirmative vote by the Board of Selectmen, it goes before the Board of Finance for an affirmative vote. At that point, a town meeting would be held with a vote by the town. At any point, a public hearing may be requested by the Board of Selectmen.
In regard to the sale of 107 East Street, the town obtained additional information as instructed at the July 20 board meeting. Ward noted there was an error in the last paragraph on page 2 of the memo in the packet. The total amount to be paid-off is correct at $2.2M, but the average over the next 13 years is $170,263.16 per year to pay off the debt. Agbotic used a debt number of $50,000 per year, but the number actually would be triple that.
Preete indicated that Agbotic would consider buying 50 acres and a solar array is planned. The specific acreage would depend on the geography of the land. Agbotic is planning a solar array and he offered town participation in virtual net metering. Ward noted it is unclear if the town can participate if they don’t own the property. Agbotic is not requesting tax abatement. This proposal would create approximately 15 fairly high paying jobs. It is Agbotic’s plan to have 300 greenhouses in New England over the next three years.
There is still an issue over development rights and Community Development Director Abbie Kenyon has not heard back from the state regarding this.
The purchase and sale agreement is included in the packet and Ward forwarded it to the Town Attorney, who did not have any issues with it, but noted it is very generic and he would need more details before he makes a recommendation for the board to move forward. Kenyon reached out to the Development Commission, but has not heard back yet. In addition, she contacted the Agricultural Commission for its opinion regarding this type of operation for the future use of the property.
Kuhnly asked if the selectmen had any questions for Ward before Preete gives his presentation and receives questions.
Edward Ohannessian asked for the corrected numbers again and inquired about the offer for the 50 acres. In addition, he clarified that Kenyon will get in touch with the Development Commission and the Agricultural Commission. Kenyon spoke to the chairman of the Development Commission who had some questions. Ward has not received feedback from that conversation. She has not spoken to the chairman of the Agricultural Commission as of yet. She will ask if anyone on that commission could evaluate the proposal. The final yearly cost is $170,263.16 that represents the principal and interest the town will pay each year for the next 13 years until the total amount is paid off. A price has not been discussed since the change in reduced acreage. Preete will discuss that.
Sally King asked how the property will be accessed when it is cut back to 40 or 50 acres, but acknowledged that would need to be answered by Preete.
Glenn Ballard asked what made the proposal “not formal.” Ward replied there are many details we don’t have yet so it isn’t complete enough to be deliberated or voted on by the board.
Preete addressed the board and provided a timeline of the process so far, beginning with his presentation on May 4. He noted he answered Ward’s questions via email and he is willing to use less acreage and the proposal he presented on May 4 can fit on 50 acres. The sale amount would be $330,000. The easement/access will need to be worked out. The revenue stream for the town would be about $50,000 going forward. He identified the debt service in more detail in his email dated July 31 and included the revenue from the assets he would put in, which is over and above what the debt service would be. He does not believe he mentioned anything regarding a tax abatement.
There was discussion regarding the bond debt. The outstanding principal is $1.8M and the interest is $407,000. The total payment is $170,263 yearly (principal and interest) for 13 years. Although the town received additional information on the project tonight, more is needed before a decision can be made.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (4-0-1) to table the discussion on the interest in town-owned land at 107 East Street until the next BOS meeting. Ballard abstained.
Consideration of STEAP Grant Application
Ward is seeking approval for a Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant for Holcomb Farm. The money would be used for the septic and an update of the bathrooms to make them ADA compliant. It would also be used to fix the exterior of the farmhouse.
Holcomb Farm has been a recipient of STEAP in the past. This year it is for $128,000 and would be equally matched by the town. The money is in the Capital Improvement budget. This year, STEAP is encouraging projects related to COVID, but there are none. Ward delayed the decision to see if Kearns was going to be used by the BOE, but that is no longer the case. Only small towns can apply and if approved, Ward will come back to the board to request the matching share. The $128,000 would come from the Recreation Fund for work on the farmhouse and the General Fund for work on the barn. Ward thanked Kristine Vincent and Kirk Severance for working on this grant.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (4-1-0) to authorize the Administration to submit a grant to STEAP for the proposed improvements to Holcomb Farm. Ballard opposed the motion.
Ballard inquired if it would generate more bookings at Holcomb Farm if these projects are done. Ward noted that it is an issue that comes up when people are contemplating a rental. There was no quantitative analysis done. Ballard also inquired how residents would feel about doing this over playgrounds. Ward noted the playgrounds are closed and no survey was done. It is more valuable to fix the bathrooms this year as opposed to the playgrounds. The guidelines for STEAP came out in July and the deadline for the grant is Aug. 13. King noted the facility at Holcomb Farm has produced a lot of income for the town and the farmhouse looks horrible. The farm is an asset to the town and improvements are needed. King is in agreement with the project. Ohannessian voiced his agreement as well.
Ward noted that two years ago this was a project CPPAC had on their list. It didn’t want to use bond money if the money could be found somewhere else. Kuhnly noted that we need to look at this as a municipality not a business. If there is a building that looks bad, we need to fix it.
Consideration of Re-Opening Tri-Town Cable Fund for Tracking PEGPEDIA Grant
Tri-Town Cable, through the town, applied for a grant through the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). They are the recipient of $147,000 in assistance used to upgrade equipment. Because the application was through the town, town actuaries requested the money come through the town accounts. Administration Finance Officer Kimi Cheng requested the Tri-Town Cable Fund be reopened for the purpose of tracking this money. The money is a flow through and it needs to be shown as such.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Ballard the board voted (5-0-0) to approve to reopen the Tri-Town Cable Fund for tracking the PEGPEDIA grant.
Town Manager Reports
Ward reported the remnants of Hurricane Isaias are expected to hit tomorrow at 2 p.m. The Emergency Management Director met with administration, the Social Services Director, as well as the Director of Public Works regarding preparedness.
Ohannessian inquired if town offices are scheduled to open to the public on Aug. 10. Ward reported they are and thanked the Re-Opening Committee. He noted it did an excellent job under the leadership of Chairman Sandra Yost.
The Town Hall will be opened daily from 9 to 11 a.m. and again from 1 to 3 p.m. The two hours in between are for cleaning. Residents are being encouraged to continue to conduct business on-line, by telephone and through the lock boxes in the foyer.
The ballot box from the state arrived today and will be available tomorrow for use outside. The library is scheduled to open on Aug. 10 as well, but may be open every other day to allow cleaning in between. Due to the high-risk population, as well as using the Senior Center for indoor activities, it will open last.
Pursuant to Conn. General Statute 1-200(2), the board moves to go into Executive Session to discuss Collective Bargaining. Ward and Cheng are invited to attend.
Kuhnly called the executive session to order at 8:21 p.m. and it was adjourned at 8:41 p.m.
At 8:42 p.m., the regular meeting resumed.
On A Motion by Ohannessian, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to adjourn the meeting at 8:42 p.m.
August 19, 2020
The special meeting of the Board of Selectmen, via Zoom, was called to order by First Selectman B. Scott Kuhnly at 7 p.m.
Present: B. Scott Kuhnly, Glenn Ballard, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian, John D. Ward, Town Manager.
On A Motion by Sally King, seconded by Mark Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of Aug. 3, as written.
Resignations and Appointments to be considered
Vacancies: Conservation Commission (2); Development (1)
John Ward noted there is a second vacancy on the Conservation Commission. There was a member who has not been attending and his appointment has expired. There is also a vacancy on the Development Commission.
Consideration of Fiscal Year 2019-20 Transfer of Accounts
Administration wants to transfer money from Contingency to Administration in the amount of $14,100. This is compensation for the Interim Community Development Director, Dominick Caruso, who filled in for Abby Kenyon while she was on leave.
Town Manager Reports
Ward noted this is the first month of the new fiscal year and currently 48 percent of collections have been received. The average for the same period over the past six years is a 47.7 percent collection rate. No state aid has been received as of yet for this period, but that is not unusual for July. In addition, expenditures are minimal. There were no questions from the board.
Ward responded to a request from Glenn Ballard for background information regarding officers who work out-of-town or vice-versa. Ward explained that this is private duty pay. Contractors will hire officers for private jobs when necessary. The contractors are charged for the officer’s time, as well as an administration fee. The officers make time and a half. It costs the town nothing. Sometimes out-of-town officers fill in for private jobs here as well.
Ballard reported he did some analysis on Agbotic and gave a brief presentation on his findings. He feels if the sale goes forward, the town would not lose money and on paper, it looks like a great deal. In addition, the town has a problem with solid waste disposal and needs to find another option within one to seven years. He noted Preete has experience with trash to energy and Ballard believes this could be done on the property on East Street as well. The plant could serve the town and this service could be provided to another town, which would provide additional income.
Kuhnly noted that in the future, any presentations should be forwarded to the Selectmen ahead of time to review. He noted that at the last board meeting, Preete did not answer his question regarding taxes so the numbers Ballard provided may not be correct. In addition, solar projects take a long period of time to get approval. He asked Ballard to forward his information to the Selectmen and a discussion regarding Agbotic will be on the next agenda.
King noted that if the board proceeds further with this proposal, it would be wise to have an expert in the field provide input.
Ward interjected that this is a special meeting and as such, no agenda items can be added or discussed.
Kuhnly asked Ballard if he spoke to anyone to get the information he provided. It came from Sierra Energy in California. The report was created based on information Ballard provided through a free website. Kuhnly noted that Selectmen do not have authority to contact anyone on behalf of the town.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to adjourn the meeting at 7:24 p.m.
John D. Ward, Town Manager